Woman overcomes suicidal thoughts, handwrites 'lovely letters' to thousands around the world

Published: Tuesday, May 13 2014 4:15 p.m. MDT

When she found herself lying on her bedroom floor with 300 pills in hand, Jodi Ann Bickley made a decision that would affect thousands around the world.

Bickley was living in Birmingham, England, and loved to write and recite poetry. But in September 2011, Bickley contracted Mengo encephalitis, a brain infection that later caused her to have a small stroke. Soon after, Bickley was diagnosed with Myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

At 25 years old, Bickley's life had changed drastically as she was no longer physically capable of keeping up with everyday activities, and she found herself in a state of deep depression. On Feb. 3, 2013, just as she was contemplating ending her life, Bickley had a realization.

"I wasn't quite ready to leave yet. So what was I to do. All I have is me and a lot of time, and my love for writing," Bickley described in her TEDxBrum presentation.

"Within a half hour I had set up OneMillionLovelyLetters.com. The aim is that if I can actually talk one person down from the curb, then that's a success."

Having struggled with depression, Bickley explained the importance of reminding others of their worth.

"I know that sometimes we don't need to be saved. Sometimes we just need reminding how amazing we are," Bickley said in her presentation.

"I think everyone deserves to know that they are thought of and they are loved. Even if it is by a complete stranger."

So on her website, Bickley reached out to anyone who was feeling down, encouraging them to send her an email with their address, and she promised to send them a handwritten letter.

Within three months, Bickley's website had been viewed 51,000 times by people in 118 countries. Now, a year later, Bickley has handwritten 1,500 letters.

"I'm sent life stories of the tragedies that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, every single day. And I just think, if someone's put that effort in to write me about their worst times, then I should put as much effort in to write back to them," Bickley said during an interview with BBC World News.

"I've written to countries I couldn't have even imagined to have communicated with. Like I've written to people in Sudan, Amman and the Reunion Islands, just places you wouldn't think of are communicating with me from my little house."

Throughout the process, Bickley has learned of many success stories, including her own.

"In turn of helping all these people, it helps me through as well," Bickley told BBC World News.

"Like on my worst days, it gives me a reason to get up in the morning and I feel privileged to do it."

When asked how she comes up with the ideas, or how she knows what to write, Bickley explains that she tries to write what everyone would need to hear on the worst day of their life.

"What I do is not a remarkable skill. I haven't been divorced, or abused, or experienced many of the problems people have written to me about," Bickley said during her TEDxBrum presentation.

"But I have been on the curb and experienced that moment when it feels like the world is starting to crumble. And I've learned that sometimes all you need to be reminded of is that you are loved and you are not alone."

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @Sarah_DNews

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